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University of Maryland Baltimore County receives $21 million donation to expand educational research

The University of Maryland Baltimore County has received a record $21 million donation to expand educational research, teacher preparation and partnerships with Baltimore city schools, the university announced Thursday.

Donated by the Sherman Family Foundation, the money will be used to create a new center called the Betsy & George Sherman Center, a namesake of former teacher Betsy Sherman and her husband, the late George Sherman, a business executive, who together supported educational opportunities for underprivileged students.

The Sherman family has donated more than $38 million throughout the past 25 years and established two other educational programs at UMBC: the Sherman STEM Teachers Scholars Program and the Sherman Center for Early Learning in Urban Communities.

The recent donation will fund the creation of an umbrella organization that will direct the two teaching programs and an educational research initiative.

“So much of what we do is done better when each of these three areas is working together,” said Rehana Shafi, director of the scholar’s program, which launched in 2007.

The new center will encompass both programs and be led by an executive director, whom the university plans to hire ahead of the 2023-2024 school year. The funds will also go toward hiring another faculty member so the current director of the Sherman Center for Early Learning can concentrate on growing the center’s research team beyond early-childhood education to focus on multiple education topics.

The Sherman scholars program prepares college students to become teachers in Baltimore and other cities in Maryland with a focus on training educators to meet the needs of culturally diverse grade school students learning science, technology, engineering and math. Scholars have close partnerships with Baltimore schools, such as Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Southwest Baltimore, where students have boosted their math test scores with the help of individualized learning plans.

“We’re preparing our folks to become teachers in Baltimore City to a degree where principals call us now to say, ‘Who have you got graduating?’ because the word is out that Sherman scholars are ready to hit the ground in a way that other first-year teachers might not be,” Shafi said.

Last year, 22 scholars graduated from the program, 19 of whom are teaching in Baltimore, Shafi said. Approximately 170 teachers have graduated from the program since 2007 to work in high-need schools across the state.

The Sherman Center for Early Learning in Urban Communities started in 2017 with a $6 million donation from the Sherman family. Fellows in the program run a summer institute with a focus on improving students’ literacy, in part by offering a range of multicultural and bilingual books from which students can choose to learn to read. Fellows also work closely with students’ families at five Baltimore schools.

The second-largest gifts to UMBC were two donations of $10 million for scholarship programs in STEM and the arts, said a spokeswoman for UMBC.

— Baltimore Sun